Addiction, as Greg Dulli knows, is an all-consuming occupation. Finding your next fix is what drives every move, every breathe, every word. It is your devil and it is your god, your sickness and your well-being. It is, in short, your entire life. And so the fact that Dulli sobered up in the time between the Twilight Singers' previous album, She Loves You, and Powder Burns doesn't make it surprising that this latest release is about that disease. But Dulli's too smart -- and was too intimately involved with drugs -- to make a nice, clean record with easy, straightforward statements that float like bubbles into his audience's outstretched, pudgy fingers. Instead, he spits and growls and coughs questions into our thin, gaping faces, questions that he knows have no answers, and that even if they did, he wouldn't want to hear them anyway. Because Powder Burns is too personal. It's a debate within Dulli himself, an argument that twists and wrenches itself through 11 different conversations and ends up with nothing more than a sigh and a wistful prayer for salvation. Musically, the album is as hard as the group has ever gotten. From the intense, driving opener that crashes into "I'm Ready" like a wall of water, to the hedonistic snarl in "My Time (Has Come)," Dulli is pure carnal emotion. Even in the slower songs, with the slinking drums of "Candy Cane Crawl," or the greasy, nasally promises he offers in "Forty Dollars," it's nothing but his own blood that's pushing the music along, pulsing with the beat itself. Though he's singing from different perspectives, trying to take on other personas, it's obvious that everything he's saying is about him, his own problems, his own story. The songs reference each other, reference other songs and literary works, bite into one another like a pack of hungry dogs and leave blood and patches of hair wherever they've been, but continue to limp down that smudged path that separates pleasure from pain. And Dulli's a genius at straddling that line, sliding into that muddy spot between sobriety and being high ("daylight is creeping, I feel it burn my face," he moans), that dangerous place between the flame and the coals, where he crouches, the hair on the back of his hands singed, hoping that maybe somehow he'll be able to get out successfully. If Powder Burns is any indication of his strength and cunning, he's already found an escape.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown